Folking Around … news from around the wonderful world of folk


By the time you read this Karine Polwart will be in Stornoway, at The Hebridean Dark Skies Festival – billed as ‘a two-week series of performances, workshops and discussion rooted in astronomy and the wonders of the night’. More importantly, Ms Polwart will be testing out some ideas for a piece of work inspired by the birth and death of stars, radio astronomy and nuclear physics, and the contrast between deep time and human time. According to the artist there will be ‘a whiff of wonder, as well as the reek of human waste. There will be curiosity and concern, cockroaches (don’t ask!), myth and magic’. Sounds delightful. If it’s anywhere near as impressive as her Wind Resistance project, then it will be well worth waiting for. website

Also in February in Scotland is the 20th BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year. Finalists this year are Josie Duncan (voice), Pàdruig Morrison (accordion), Ali Levack (whistles and pipes), Mhairi Mackinnon (fiddle), Calum McIlroy (guitar, mandolin, and voice), and Cameron Nixon (voice). Given that previous winners and finalists include Hannah Rarity and Amy Papiransky, we’d suggest you keep a close eye on these six in the future.

Another Shire Folk fave, Kim Edgar, is currently out on the road with Cara, but she’s also scheduled to do some solo festival gigs later in the year at Ireby Festival, Wimbourne Minster Folk Festival, and BAA Fest. Not only that, but she’s announced that there’s a new album in the works. Tentatively called Witness, she’ll be heading into the studio with Mattie Foulds in April. High sense of anticipation here at Shire Folk Towers? You bet. website

Someone else with a new album in the offing is Rowan Godel. Having recorded and toured with such folk-rock luminaries as the Levellers and Oysterband and released a debut EP, September Skies, in 2016, the crowdfunded Where the Wild Horses Roam was recorded with Benji Kirkpatrick and Tim Cottrell. There’ll also be the inevitable tour to accompany the album launch, touching down at such venues as the Slaughtered Lamb in that there London, Huntingdon Hall in Worcester, Northampton’s Albion Bar, and the venerable Nettlebed Folk Club, who helped fund the album on Monday 16 March. All details at www.rowangodel.co.uk

Following on from his 2018 album Midlife, midlands troubadour Jon Wilks has been given a batch of songs by the widow of the late Roy Palmer, a song collector and specialist also from the midlands. Apparently these songs describe everything from an argument overheard in a neighbour’s house over the husband’s lack of money sense, to the complaint of a chimney sweep who longs to have a bath and be able to take the fashionable ‘Brummagem Girls’ for a date on New Street, the saucy song of a New Street sausage roll salesman, and even the crazy tale of a knight who gets caught up in witchcraft and devilry during a pleasant morning in Bromsgrove. If hearing these in advance of the forthcoming album takes your fancy then you can see Jon in the likes of the Prince Albert in Stroud, the Hyde Tavern in Winchester, Readifolk, and at Twickenham Folk Club. website

It’s been four years since the release of Old Adam, not that we’re suggesting that Fay Hield is dragging her heels or anything. What with being an academic at the University of Sheffield and all, but still. Therefore, we were delighted to hear that a new album may be about to see the light of day. Called Wrackline, it apparently ‘looks at traditional stories involving the “otherworld” of fairies, ghosts and the animal kingdom, the new work explores our emotional responses to the space between their realm and our own’. Featuring Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron, it definitely sounds interesting. Watch this space. website

Following on from the likes of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Rod Stewart, legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor is releasing an album of American standards called, er, American Standard. Released on 28 February, it features show tunes from the likes of Oklahoma, Showboat, Carousel, as well as other classics from the American songbook, such as ‘Teach Me Tonight’ and ‘The Nearness of You’. website

A special gold vinyl edition of Bridge Over Troubled Water is released on 14 February to mark the album’s 50th anniversary. In advance of that, however, Simon & Garfunkel have also released a digital-only EP entitled Live At Carnegie Hall 1969, featuring four previously unreleased recordings recorded live in New York two months before the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water, including a unique take on ‘The Boxer’ with its original, additional verse. Unsurprisingly given the pair’s mutual animosity, there’s no accompanying tour. website

Back on our patch, Make Music Abingdon is run by a small group of volunteers who organise an annual event to celebrate International Make Music Day on 21 June. They also run Your Music Showcase sessions on every 2nd or 3rd Sunday. Last year’s summer event had the likes of Megan Henwood and Adam Barnes playing as well as lots of good local artists. They also try to run five or six musical workshops at venues around the town from 2 p.m. onwards and it’s all free! Keep checking their website for details of this year’s events. website

Duncan Chappell, who runs the music evenings at Harwell Village Hall, has also joined the team at the Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon as Programme Curator. Some excellent artists have been booked this year including Shire Folk favourites Jim Moray, The Willows, Ninebarrow and Emily Mae-Winters.

Holywell Music & Folk, which is organised by Geoff Smith, has been having a bit of a makeover. It will now be known as Oxford Music & Folk, with concerts taking place at a range of venues and not just at the Holywell Music Rooms. Geoff will certainly continue to use the Quaker Meeting Rooms and is looking at other possible venues for his monthly gigs. There is a special night on Saturday 18 April where Findlay Napier and Reg Meuross will be performing a double header in conjunction with Folk Weekend Oxford.

Talking of Folk Weekend Oxford, which takes place from 17 to 19 April, Martin Green, accordion player and general electronic wizard from the trio Lau, will be playing at The North Wall in Summertown. In conjunction with Lepus Productions he will be appearing four times over the weekend performing his work called The Portal. Described as an ‘experimental morris dance theatrical rave party’, it will involve ‘audiences making moving musical sculptures together’. Never let it be said that folk music doesn’t progress; this should be something well worth seeing!

Also appearing at The North Wall in the coming months are Rowan Rhiengans, Eliza Carthy, Will Pound and Sam Sweeney. Rowan will be performing material from her project Dispatches on the Red Dress and Sam and his band will be playing tunes from his new album Unearth Repeat. We would recommend getting tickets for all these gigs pretty soon as they do tend to sell out.

Ray Cooper, who many of you will know from his time in the Oysterband, is coming over from Sweden to do a solo tour of the UK. He will be doing eleven dates in March and a full list of venues can be found at website

Warwick Folk Festival takes place from 23 to 26 July and is moving from its usual location on the outskirts of the town to a new site in the centre of Warwick at Castle Park. The line-up looks impressive with headliners being Show of Hands, Seth Lakeman, Le Vent Du Nord and The Young Un’s.

As we reported in the last Shire Folk, Towersey, one of the big local folk festivals, is moving to the Claydon Estate in Buckinghamshire. It takes place from 28 to 31 August and already has an exciting set of acts booked, including Kate Rusby, Steeleye Span, Show of Hands, Grace Petrie, Talisk and This is the Kit. Also there are Magpie Arc, a new band including Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr, Adam Holmes, Tom A. Wright and Alex Hunter.

Finally, we wanted to mark the sad passing of one of the great American songwriters, David Olney. Steve Earle called Olney ‘One of the best songwriters working in the world today’, and the late Townes Van Zandt once said, ‘Anytime anyone asks me who my favourite music writers are, I say, “Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan and Dave Olney”’. Olney died on 18 January, aged 71, after suffering an apparent heart attack during a performance in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Having released over 25 albums, we called last year’s This Side or the Other ‘a strong and welcome album’, saying that ‘whilst being a rootsy Americana album, the variety of arrangements and instrumentation maintain the musical interest throughout’. A Nashville legend without any doubt, he’ll be sorely missed. website


Keston Cobblers


Maz O'Connor


Kim Edgar


Shire Folk Album of 2019

Josienne Clarke album